The single mother of two young children, the oldest of whom, Justine, 3, has been battling Acute Mylegenous Leukemia since she was 3 months old, received a 2003 PT Cruiser from Mike's Auto Body in Brentwood as part of its holiday Benevolence Program.
As it does each year, the Mike's chain, which opened its Brentwood location in March, gives free vehicles to several deserving members of the community through an application process that ended in late November. This year, the staff at Mike's received a touching letter from Heather Fox, the family's clinical social worker at
Oakland Children's Hospital, nominating Tinajero and her children.
Fox wrote of Justine's current chemotherapy treatments and her ongoing search for an O-Positive bone marrow donor, noting that a source of reliable transportation would make the regular trips to Oakland Children's Hospital easier.
"When Justine is at home, it is vital that she get to Children's Hospital and Research Center immediately whenever she has a fever because of her immunocompromised status," Fox wrote in her letter. "Each fever could represent a life-threatening infection for her, so it is vital that antibiotic treatment be initiated as soon as possible."
Fox went into further detail about Tinajero's character.
"Although Evette is a young mom, I am always impressed and moved by how loving and patient she is with her children. She is mature and wise beyond her years. Evette has a sophisticated understanding of her daughter's medical condition and is a wonderful advocate for Justine."
A few days after the letter arrived, Tinajero got a call from Mike Rose, owner of Mike's Auto Body, telling her she had been selected. She knew she would receive a car but she didn't know what kind and she surely didn't expect the treatment she received.
A brief ceremony featuring Brentwood Mayor-elect Bob Taylor welcomed Tinajero and her family, after which Sal Contreras, who facilitates the Benevolence Program for Mike's Auto Body, recognized the roughly two dozen businesses and individuals that helped make the event happen. Finally, Tinajero was brought outside to view her new PT Cruiser, complete with two car seats and filled to the brim with toys, food and diapers.
The car also came with six months of free insurance, courtesy of Mercury Insurance Group, and several gas cards to get the family on the road.
But the giving didn't end there.
"A lot of our technicians who didn't get a chance to work on the car wanted to get involved on their own, so they went out and bought presents for the family and even wrapped them themselves," Contreras said. "There were so many gifts this year they didn't all fit in the car."
A teary-eyed Tinajero could hardly speak.
"This isn't just going to help me; it's going to help Justine," she said. "We've been through a lot and this is really going to make a difference in our lives. I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart."
For Contreras, who has witnessed 15 such ceremonies in six years, the experience was quite touching.
"This is such a great program. It's held nationwide each year and this year over 50 body shops around the nation are getting involved," he said. "We're so happy to present Evette with this car. She really deserves it and we wish the best to her and her children."
More information about bone marrow donation is available through the National Marrow Donor Program. Reach them online at www.marrow.org or by phone at (800) 627-7692.